Pelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment

Pelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment
© Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' MORE (D-Calif.) sought Wednesday to prevent the trickle of Democratic impeachment supporters from becoming a wave. 

During an emergency closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement, Pelosi didn't broach the topic directly and instead gave the floor to a handful of committee chairs who back her methodical approach. 

“My message was: stay the course we're on,” Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMichael Steele: Celebrating Elijah Cummings, a servant and a leader Republicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death House leaders offer tributes from floor to Elijah Cummings MORE (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said after the meeting.

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Other lawmakers suggested the caucus remained largely behind Pelosi’s approach, despite the statements in recent days from members backing the beginning of an impeachment inquiry.

“It's clear what her view is, and at the moment I would say the caucus is willing to be led on that issue,” Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyTrump confirms Rick Perry to step down as Energy secretary Overnight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Democrats want Mulvaney to testify in Trump impeachment probe MORE (D-Va.) said of Pelosi. 

Some sharp Trump critics — like Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellLawmakers, social media users praise photo of Pelosi confronting Trump Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China Hillary Clinton swipes at NBA over Hong Kong controversy MORE (D-N.J.), who's been pushing to get the president's tax returns — are on board Pelosi’s approach.

Pascrell spoke out during the closed-door session to note that recent court rulings have sided with the Democrats' requests for information, and more are likely to follow with similar verdicts. 

“At this particular point I think the Speaker is absolutely correct,” Pascrell said. “Richie Neal and his methodical approach I think is absolutely correct,” he added, referring to the Ways and Means Committee chairman. 

Outside the meeting, Pelosi accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE of being involved in a cover-up, a tough rhetorical line that sends a signal to lawmakers that she takes White House stonewalling of congressional investigations seriously.

“We do believe that it is important to follow the facts, we believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States, and we believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up,” Pelosi told reporters.

The Speaker then set out for a meeting with Trump and other congressional leaders on infrastructure. The meeting was abruptly ended by Trump, who expressed anger that Democrats were investigating him, and anger specifically at Pelosi over the cover-up remark.

“I don’t do cover-ups,” Trump said in comments from the White House Rose Garden after the abbreviated meeting. He also said he would not work with Democrats on policy until they ended their investigations.

Pelosi’s remarks could also give ammunition to those arguing that it’s time for an impeachment inquiry. 

“There's ample evidence that we should be having this debate in Congress and before the American people,” said Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Moulton2020 Presidential Candidates Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year MORE (D-Mass.). “His campaign chairman is in prison; don't tell me there's not enough to debate here.”

Pressure on Pelosi to begin impeachment proceedings intensified after former White House counsel Don McGahn disregarded a subpoena and refused to appear before Congress on Tuesday, and after GOP Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria pullout Grand Rapids synagogue targeted with anti-Semitic posters on its door MORE (Mich.) came out in favor of impeachment.

Connolly acknowledged “some discussion” on the recent push to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president. “But that's not where we are this morning,” he added.

The White House stonewalling has sparked a new round of Democratic defectors from Pelosi's no-impeachment position. Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroLawmakers argue for national Latino museum The Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight to take center stage at Dem debate The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren, Sanders overtake Biden in third-quarter fundraising MORE (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, is one of them. He described a cordial debate in Wednesday's meeting. 

“Some people have said that they're ready to start an impeachment inquiry — not an impeachment vote, but an impeachment inquiry — and others said they're not quite there yet,” Castro said. “And it was a collegial debate. ... Nobody was screaming at each other.”

Rep. Juan VargasJuan C. VargasTensions flare as Democrats urge consumer bureau to boost penalties Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment ICE does not know how many veterans it has deported, watchdog says MORE (D-Calif.) is also urging impeachment hearings to begin immediately, arguing it's the surest — and quickest — way for the committees to obtain the information Trump is withholding. 

“We should start the impeachment process. I think it gets us to a place where we can get this information, and then frankly be able to make a determination,” he said.

“By the time the courts decide, I think I'll have grandchildren,” he continued, “and my daughters aren't married."

The other committee heads who spoke during the meeting were Neal and Reps. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement Top Democrat holds moment of silence for Cummings at hearing Barr to speak at Notre Dame law school on Friday MORE (D-N.Y.), of the House Judiciary panel; Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersHillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets On The Money: Tax, loan documents for Trump properties reportedly showed inconsistencies | Tensions flare as Dems hammer Trump consumer chief | Critics pounce as Facebook crypto project stumbles Zuckerberg meets with Waters ahead of congressional testimony MORE (D-Calif.), of the House Financial Services Committee; and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats want Mulvaney to testify in Trump impeachment probe Republicans seek to delay effort to censure Schiff after Cummings' death Schiff: Mulvaney comments on Ukraine aid have made things 'much, much worse' MORE (D-Calif.), of the Intelligence Committee. 

Some Democrats, while not yet advocating for impeachment, say they are moving closer.

“Inch by inch, yard by yard ... with every new point of resistance ... people are saying, 'Hey, we can't just sit here and do nothing,’ ” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “I'm not there, but I'm a lot closer than I was.”